#375: A Christmas Plan For Those Who Are Overwhelmed By Christmas

#375: A Christmas Plan For Those Who Are Overwhelmed By Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner! Do you have a Christmas plan in place or are you overwhelmed thinking about it already? Have no fear! In this episode, Kathi and Tonya Kubo, illustrious leader of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, will help you create a Christmas plan to have your most joyful, meaningful, merry holiday season yet.

Kathi and Tonya will give you a glimpse into some of their favorite Christmas traditions and others that didn’t work for them. Their experiences will help you discover:

  • Three things that can make Christmas feel overwhelming and how to address them.
  • Important questions to ask when crafting a Christmas plan.
  • How to share the giving season and get others involved in your Christmas plan.

Kathi and Tonya are right. You really can get anything on Amazon! Most importantly, you can pre-order your copy of The Christmas Project Planner and get your Christmas plan rolling today.

Join the Christmas planning fun in the Christmas Project Planner Facebook Group.

If you’re interested in trying raclette, click here to learn more.

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Clutter Free Academy Podcast #375 Transcript


Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, do-able steps to live everyday with less clutter and more life. All I want to say right now is, “JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE ALL THE WAY!!” Am I killing you, Tonya? I’m talking to my guest, Tonya Kubo, who is the fearless leader over at Clutter Free Academy, the Facebook group.  If you’re not a part of that, go join it. If you’re not a part of that, what are we even doing? What are we even doing here?

Tonya – I don’t even know. Where are you? If you’re not there, where are you?

Kathi – Do you not love love? Do you not love support? Do you not love the kindest corner of the internet? I mean, what are we even doing? Well, Tonya, the reason I said I’m killing you, is because you are a self-admitted Grinch. I wouldn’t call you a Grinch. I know you call yourself a Grinch, but can we just say – and, by the way, we’re rerecording this because Kathi may have had a couple of technical difficulties the last time we recorded this – and we didn’t talk about this then, but I want to talk about it now. You maybe didn’t have the easiest growing up. 

Tonya – No, I didn’t have the easiest growing up. I would agree with you. I view Grinches as people who want to ruin Christmas for other people, but I think I’m happy for you to have the most amazing Christmas ever, I just don’t need to be a part of it. 

Kathi – My theory is: If you want to be miserable, you go right ahead. And you’re saying: If you want to be happy, you go right ahead. Here’s the thing: because you have kids, and because I love your kids, I want them to have some semblance of a Christmas that they will look back on fondly, with lots of love. I do feel like I need to get you up to a Christmas level every year, because you help me with The Christmas Challenge. Every year, you get a little more Christmas-y. 

Tonya – That is true. I will say, last year, as we were preparing for The Christmas Project Planner to come out, even Brian commented that I was the most Christmas-y he had ever known me to be. 

Kathi – Here’s the thing. I think you have mental issues when it comes to matching outfits. 

Tonya – I definitely have mental issues when it comes to matching outfits! Oh, my gosh!

Kathi – I think that there is some childhood trauma there. Every time I talk about, “What is your problem with Christmas?” matching outfits comes up. 

Tonya – Okay, so you know that I have a MOPS background, and our annual fundraiser at our local MOPS group is what they call Santa House. One of our members lives in an old mansion. She does it all out for Christmas. We have Santa there. For one price, you can take your Christmas picture, Christmas craft, some hot cocoa, some cookies. You get your picture print that day, and you go out the door. So, for years, I see that parade of families that walk in, and the whole family is done up in these coordinating outfits. I have to tell you, the first year, I was like, “These are thoughts that have never crossed my mind.” The idea that we all might own outfits that coordinate is not a Kubo family tradition. Second, the idea that you would all wear those coordinating outfits on this one day, like you would pre-plan that? Mind-blowing! 

Kathi – Can I just tell you, my husband loves me deeply and would do almost anything for me, but the thought of asking him to get into a coordinating outfit? It never even occurred to me. We did do, because he loves his daughter deeply, and she wanted to go to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Hallowe’en Party, and she wanted to go as Joy from UP!. Not UP! Excuse me. Inside Out. I get the two confused because they almost had an Up themed wedding. So, Roger went as Anger and I went as Disgust. 

Tonya – Yes! And Lily was very impressed with your Disgust. 

Kathi – I loved my Disgust. This has nothing to do with Christmas, but let me just say this: As a mom who raised kids in the ’90s and the aughts, the double zeros, pulling together a costume in 2019 is an order of magnitude easier than it was when my kids were little. You can get anything on Amazon. 

Tonya – Right?! The perfect wig and all the things.

Kathi – Right! I got everything on Amazon. It was amazing. Okay, sorry. The struggle is real. Okay, but we’re talking about Christmas and I believe that so many people are overwhelmed by Christmas for three reasons. Let me just go over them really quickly. Loneliness, and I’ll explain what I mean by that, A Lack of a Plan, and Others’ Expectations. So, let’s go into these. You and I have talked about this and you agree with these three.

Tonya – Oh, totally.

Kathi – Okay, so, Loneliness.  I believe that overwhelm often stems from the feeling “I’m in this all by myself.” Feeling alone in something. So, when I say Loneliness, it’s not that you don’t have friends. That’s not what we’re talking about. It’s feeling like it’s all up to you and you don’t have the help.  I think, I’m switching these around, because I think that stems from Number Three: Others’ Expectations. People feel like, “Well, everybody who’s a good mom has matching outfits”, “Everybody who’s a good mom xyz.” To not process those expectations, and just accept them? Here’s the thing that we need to understand: Expectations don’t affect us until with accept the expectations. There were lots of things people did for Christmas that I couldn’t have cared less about. We never dressed anybody in matching outfits. That was not our thing. We never went caroling. We had a group of friends who did that, and I’m like, “That sounds terrible. I don’t want to do that.” There are some people who love that, though. You have to figure out what works for you, in your situation, and you, in your family. What are some of the things that bring you joy when it comes to Christmas, Tonya?

Tonya – Peppermint Mochas and Gingerbread Lattes. 

Kathi – Yes! Those are good things. Very, very good things. Some people get angry that they only come out seasonally. I love that they only come out seasonally. 

Tonya – Well, you actually can get the Peppermint Mocha all year ’round.

Kathi – This is true, because Roger does it every day. The Gingerbread Lattes and things like that, though? Even the Pumpkin Spiced Latte? That’s a treat. 

Tonya – Right, and I think there is this thing, going back to your point about Amazon. You can get anything, at any time, pretty much, nowadays, right? So, it’s easy to feel like nothing is special, but the one thing I do like about Christmas, and the holiday season, is that it is an opportunity to make things special.

Kathi – That goes into our point of Number Two: Have a Plan. All of these tie in together. The loneliness, feeling like you have to do it all by yourself, others’ expectations. One of the things I feel is very important, whoever the stakeholders are in your Christmas, for you, that would be Brian and your two girls. For me, it is my husband, my adult kids, my adult step-kids, my mom, and to a certain extent, my brother and his family. So, if we want to have the Christmas we want to have, I’m going to put in as much effort, probably more, than most people in my family, but I’m not going to put in all the effort. Here’s what I’ve come to understand: I kill myself to make a great Christmas, but it’s not the Christmas that other people wanted, and then I’m disappointed with people’s reaction. That’s ridiculous. I stopped that around ten years ago. That’s not what’s happening anymore. So, to sit down and say, “What do we want this Christmas to look like?” And really get specific. I remember one time, I made at least fifteen dishes on the table, for Christmas dinner, and people weren’t eating anything. I couldn’t figure it out, and I was really frustrated. I came to find out all my kids care about were the appetizers. They don’t care about the turkey. They don’t care about any of that stuff. So say, “Could we do a Christmas where it’s just appetizers and dessert?” Can I just tell you? That was our favourite Christmas ever. We’ve done other things like that. Last year we did raclette. Everybody had a great time and it was super-easy. If you don’t know, it’s a Swedish fondue. You can look it up, or, we’ll put a link in the show notes. 

Tonya – You need to put a link in the show notes, ’cause I think that’s what my husband wants for Christmas.  I’m just saying.

Kathi – It’s super-super fun. We’ve one pizza fondue, we’ve done raclette. Get the stakeholders into it, so it’s not all up to you, so you’re not alone. You can have a plan. You can have this meeting early on. So, what would your girls say is important to them for Christmas?

Tonya – So, it’s funny that you bring that up. You’re right, going back to the plan. You have to ask. I remember, what was it, three years ago that you introduced me to this idea of asking? I asked Brian, and I thought Brian would talk about, ’cause guys are really about food, right? Dinner. All Brian cares about is for Christmas, which has been transcended to my daughters, candy for breakfast. 

Kathi – So, you do one morning of candy for breakfast on Christmas?

Tonya – Christmas morning. So, I was spending all this time planning the perfect Christmas breakfast, “‘Cause you know, it’s a sugar high, and so I want them to have protein and the overnight casserole and the whatever.” Brian just wants to be able to eat candy for breakfast. He wants to eat nothing but candy until lunchtime. That is Christmas to him.

Kathi – Okay, that sounds horrific, but if it makes them happy.

Tonya – So, then, all I have to worry about is having the Christmas breakfast that I want to have. 

Kathi – Right. So, what do you eat instead of candy? Or do you eat the candy?

Tonya – No, I eat quiche. Quiche makes me happy.

Kathi – Quiche. Okay, you and I, carbs. Yes please. So, I love that. You’ve figured out what everybody else’s expectations or desires are, and you have a plan. 

Tonya – Right. It’s funny, because Abby will ask to eat a lollipop, last Saturday, and I just look at her and say, “Is it Christmas?” and she’ll say, “No.” “When do we eat candy for breakfast?” She knows she gets candy for breakfast on Christmas and on Easter and that’s it.

Kathi – That’s so cute. I love that. It makes it so super-special to them. It’s something they’ll remember. It’s something they’ll probably do with their own kids.  So, what we’re going to do to not be overwhelmed this Christmas? We’re going to understand other people’s expectations, and we’re going to accept or reject what works for us and our family. It doesn’t matter what the other mom at school is doing and what her expectations are. The only expectations that matter are those of your kids, your family, your friends, the ones that are celebrating with you. So, we’re going to do that. Then we’re going to have a plan. We’re going to have a plan on how to execute the Christmas that you want. Here’s what happens. When you are hustling to meet everybody’s expectations, the things that are important to you get shoved out. I’ll never forget the year that I felt I was too busy, getting ready for Christmas, to go to church. How screwed up are my priorities that I’m not going to church to celebrate the baby Jesus, but I’ll make sure that the cheese rolls are on point?

Tonya – But I do that!

Kathi – We all do it!

Tonya – I would be totally happy just wearing plain clothes, going to church and coming home. But it’s like, “Oh no. There’s no time for that.” ’cause I’m decking the halls. 

Kathi – Right! And if you’re going do matching clothes? Make them matching pajamas. Make sure it’s comfy. Then, we’re going to ask other people to participate. There is something, a matriarchal complex, I’m not really sure what it is, where we feel like we want to put on the Christmas feast all by ourselves. Can I tell you? Dinner is better when you assign it to other people. 

Tonya – We were raised by women who didn’t ask for help. That is my belief. We were raised by women who didn’t ask for help. We’re surrounded by friends we don’t see ask for help and therefore we assume asking for help is a bad thing.

Kathi – Asking for help means that other people get to give in the giving celebration and that’s what we want.  Okay guys, if this all sounds like, “Well, that’s all great, but I don’t think I can pull it off.” We have a whole group dedicated to pulling this off. We can make this the best Christmas ever for you. The one where you get to celebrate how you want, in the ways that you want. We want to make that happen for you, so we have a group, and I’m going to put in there, it’s The Christmas Project Planner Group. We want you to be a part of it, because we want this Christmas to be different from any other Christmas. Tonya’s in there leading it. You guys are having so much fun.

Tonya – We are! It’s kind of like Christmas exploded. Even I’m having a blast, because I totally feed off other people’s enthusiasm, and I had no idea that Facebook had such a library of hilarious Christmas .gifs.

Kathi – The .gifs are the best.

Tonya – Come for the gifs, I’m telling you. 

Kathi – Come for the gifs. Not the GIFTS. I love it. I’m going to put links in the show notes to buy the book. This is a book you’ll be able to use for the rest of your life. You can photocopy it. You can use Post-It notes, you can put all the lists in there. This will become your, I don’t want to say Christmas Bible, because we have a real Bible about Christmas, so it’s a little blasphemous. This is your Christmas Command Central. 

Tonya – I like that.

Kathi – You’ll be able to use it every year and it will be amazing. Okay, guys. Tonya, thanks so much. Thanks for being so open about your Christmas-y, Grinch-y tendencies.

Tonya – Thanks for loving me through it.

Kathi – I do. I do, friend. I hear ya. And guys, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter-free Christmas you were always intended to celebrate.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo is the fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at www.tonyakubo.com or  www.GreatMoms.org

The Most Wonderful, Clutter Free, Gift-Giving Ideas for this Christmas

The Most Wonderful, Clutter Free, Gift-Giving Ideas for this Christmas

Tell me if this sounds familiar, friends. Your family members make the lists of all the things they simply MUST have for Christmas. Each list alone might actually be pretty do-able, but as you shop for those must-have items you also pick up a few dozen “Oh, they’d like this” type of things.

Or, their list is all big-ticket items and they’ll only end up with one or two things under the tree. That doesn’t feel very Christmas-y, so you pick up a few more items – just some little things, really.

Or you get the under-the-tree stuff done and then are left with stockings to fill with…what? Hmm. Maybe I’ll just head to the dollar store and find a cute trinket or two or eight…

Any of that sound familiar?

I’ve had years when each of those have felt true. In my desire to make the holidays special I bought items for those I love to round out the Christmas gifts or to fill the stockings. Then, after Christmas I realized that what I had done was stuck a bow on clutter and brought it into my home. The aftermath of Christmas can be an avalanche of clutter on top of what you are already trying to purge. Enough of that nonsense. I’d like to avoid that this year. No clutter with bows, thank-you-very-much. Who’s with me?

Here’s my plan to prep my home for Christmas and to bring home less clutter, and more joy.

First Declutter

Mildred, a member of our Clutter Free Academy Facebook group, posted a picture of an empty laundry basket in front of a Christmas tree. Above it was their Elf on a Shelf and a sign that said, “You’ve got to Give to Get! Please fill up the basket with toys you no longer play with and I will take them to the North Pole for other kids.” What a brilliant idea!

There are so many things our children no longer love or play with. So many things our teens no longer use or wear. So many things that are taking up space in our closets and desks. What if we took an evening as a family to get the ball rolling to purge and donate before the gifts start flowing in? Let’s put our items in the laundry basket first and show the kids how it’s done!

Buy Stuff You’ll Use – Literally

When we polled the Clutter Free group for some clutter free gift ideas the number one answer to come in wasn’t the same thing, but the same kinds of things—consumables. These are things we can enjoy, while using up.

  • Bath fun: fizzies, crayons, bubbles, shower gel in favorite scents
  • Cologne or body spray (especially for those “fragrant” teens)
  • Make-up and nail polish
  • Favorite candy and treats that you don’t purchase often
  • Spice rubs and entertaining food sets
  • Special flavors of coffee, tea, or cocoa

What if we filled those stockings with things that wouldn’t be around in a month? Some of the sweetest gifts are those we use up and remember fondly rather than having to dust or trip over all the time. This mindset works well for those we are buying for outside our home as well. Give the blessing of clutter free gifts!

Let’s Do Something Fun

Experiences were the second most popular recommendation for clutter free gifts. When grandmas and grandpas ask for family gift ideas, we can share places we’d love to go and things we’d love to do instead of stuff we’d like to have. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Memberships for the zoo or a museum
  • Season passes to the amusement park, local pool, or state park
  • Trip to a local attraction, escape room, or some fun thing you’ve wanted to try
  • Gift card for dinner out together, coffee dates with mom or dad, or other special treats
  • Pampering gift cards for mani/pedis, massages

There are all kinds of things we could do together that would be more meaningful than another video game or a piece of clothing that will wear out. Asking for experiences can be a brilliant idea. One year a friend of mine asked her mom to give her family an evening at a local escape room from a Groupon deal. She got a money-saving deal and they had so much fun together. It was a clutter free win-win.

Think Outside Boxes

When it comes to Christmas giving, we love to give gifts that are meaningful. I think we need to reframe what a meaningful gift is – sometimes it doesn’t need to be something our loved one keeps forever. Simple and small can be special. Pampering is something we can enjoy to recharge and when the massage is over we aren’t burdened with clutter. Family experiences provide memories we can treasure in our hearts and require no dusting or storage.

This Christmas, just say no to more clutter and yes to gifts that we can consume to bring joy. Merry Christmas, indeed. (Kids, in case you are reading this – I will take a massage.)


Kathi Lipp is the author of 16 books including Overwhelmed, Clutter Free, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project, and Happy Habits for Every Couple. She is the host of Clutter Free Academy the Podcast! with Kathi Lipp and speaks at conferences across the US. Kathi is also the creator of Communicator Academy and Leverage: The Speaker Conference, both designed to help writers and speakers become the communicator God has created them to be.


Clutter Free Holiday Prep: Spring Isn’t the Only Time to Tackle Cleaning

Clutter Free Holiday Prep: Spring Isn’t the Only Time to Tackle Cleaning

Spring isn’t the only time to tackle cleaning. As we face down holiday prep for the busy season ahead, tackling some of the things we do in our annual Spring Fling in the Clutter Free Academy Facebook group are a great idea. In this video from spring, Kathi’s talks about her famous 3 Questions that you need to ask to decide if something has earned the right to live in your space. There are a variety of reasons we hold onto things and with her usual grace-filled manner, Kathi talks about making the hard calls to live free. Let’s clear out some clutter and make way for the family fun and festive season we are about to enter. Watch now:

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas Project 21: Your Personalized Special Project

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas Project 21: Your Personalized Special Project

If you can’t think of something, there are some great ideas in the book to give you a jump start. Because these projects have gotten you organized and totally prepared this Christmas, consider this a gift to yourself for all of your hard work. Enjoy!

Assignment: Do that one extra special thing

Think of your own special task that you have wanted to do for years but have never had time for. Today is your day to do that thing.

Doesn’t it feel great to have everything done, ready and finished so you can really enjoy those last few days of the holiday season with your family?

Avoiding Overwhelm:

When you see others’ decorations and trees and well-behaved children (ahem!), or when you read those family Christmas letters, remember that you can either envy or enjoy, but you can’t do both. Let’s abolish overwhelm by choosing to enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

For More Details: Get Yourself Organized For Christmas – Page 110

Join Us

And join us over on the Clutter Free Academy Facebook group where we encourage one another and stay accountable as we become Clutter Free!

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas Project 20: Get Your Christmas Table Stuff Ready

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas Project 20: Get Your Christmas Table Stuff Ready

For More Details: Get Yourself Organized For Christmas – Page  106

Well, my friend, today we are not going to let that happen to you, no sir-y we are simply finding all of our table decorations and linens and getting them ready all in one spot.

Assignment and Supplies:

Find your napkins (the ones you intend to use), tablecloth (wash it if there are spots), runners, napkin rings, plates, silverware and stemware or glasses.

**Note** if you are striving for simplicity this year and are going the shabby-chic method of paper or plastic, make a list of the things you need to purchase and where. (There is some cute stuff out there these days that make a table look great. Don’t feel bad about it, remember your goal of simplicity). Embrace it!

Share Your Thoughts

Share with us! When did you have your party all set only to discover the teeny tiny thing of having no ______?  What did you do?? This year, join us in our vow to be prepared! Plan today what you will need for tomorrow.

Avoiding Overwhelm:

Have you ever noticed that, “How does the table look?” and “Doesn’t the table look pretty?” are two entirely different questions? One encourages critique while the other invites celebration. Avoid the overwhelm in your household by asking for the feedback you want.

And join us over on the Clutter Free Academy Facebook group where we encourage one another and stay accountable as we become Clutter Free!

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas Project 19: Meal Planning At Christmas Time

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas Project 19: Meal Planning At Christmas Time

meal planning at Christmas

Meal Planning at Christmas

Meal planning at Christmas can make the whole season so much easier! Take some time today to meal plan every day up until Christmas as well as Christmas dinner. (I promise, you will thank me later.) Spend time in the kitchen today taking stock of what you have, what you need, and what meals you will make your family each night for dinner.

Be sure to look at your calendar for any nights you have plans. If you need to take a dish to an event, mark that on the meal plan, so you know how to prep and shop.

If you have dinner at another home or event, revel in a night off! Either way, it goes on the meal plan. Make life easier by utilizing LOOP (Leftovers On Purpose) meals and frozen meals whether they are yours or store bought. Once you are all planned out, make a list of ingredients you need to buy as well as perishable items you need to buy at the last minute.

Make Your Life Easier, Dinner Prep Ideas

Another great dinner prep idea to make your life even easier is to have a frozen meal swap with friends. You can implement this one of two ways. The first way, invite friends to your home. Everyone brings ingredients to make a meal of their choice that is freezer friendly (enough to share with however many friends are joining in on the fun). Then you all help with the cooking, family portions are placed into gallon zip-lock bags ready to freeze, and everyone goes home with a variety of meals to freeze and enjoy throughout the month.

Another way is for everyone to make something at home (enough to share family portions with anyone participating), freeze them, and swap them with friends. This way, you might have made a huge batch of soup, but you might end up with soup, enchiladas, lasagna, and a chicken casserole.

Assignment: Spend some time in the kitchen

  1. Create your meal plan for the rest of the month.
  2. Plan your baking list so you know what you need to bake and when you’re going to do it.
  3. Plan out your Christmas dinner.
  4. Make a shopping list of all necessary ingredients. Divide list into non-perishables and perishables.
  5. Shop for non-perishables and the next few days’ meals.
  6. Make a list of things you will need to buy at the last minute.

Plan on making at least two LOOP meals a week.

For More Details: Get Yourself Organized For Christmas – Page 102


1) Calendar
2) Meal plan
3) Paper for lists

Share Your Thoughts:

How did you feel about planning out all the meals? Did this make shopping easier? Any great LOOP recipes to share?

Avoiding Overwhelm:

Be brave and realize that most people need help. Try trading chores – you pick up my stuff at Costco and I’ll look for a scarf for your Aunt Trudy when I go to the mall.

And join us over on the Clutter Free Academy Facebook group where we encourage one another and stay accountable as we become Clutter Free!